NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - When the New Providence Lady Pioneers Soccer team broke camp this past August, aspirations for a three-peat performance as Group 1 State Champions rang out among the 7 returning starters from Coach Scott Murphy’s team of a year ago. The prior year’s successes had elevated the team into a more competitive division within the Mountain Valley Conference. The team anticipated a more challenging regular season schedule, which Murphy believed would prepare the team for post season tournaments.
Tragedy struck in early September as New Providence lost All-State Forward and Captain Alex Schlobohm to a season-ending knee injury that led many to consider the Lady Pioneers out of post season competition for 2012. Surely the loss of Schlobohm’s creativity and electric pace would be a devastating loss and the team would struggle to find a way to replace the striker’s production, but also her leadership on the field.
“You can’t replace an Alex Schlobohm on any team, you can only hope that others on the team are able to step up and help contribute more than what was originally expected from them,” said Murphy.
The team would need to find scoring from new sources and out of the dust of adversity would emerge opportunity for players to step up and help offset the loss of a key teammate. However, entering Saturday’s match with 15th seeded Elizabeth, the Lady Pioneers were looking to improve upon its 5-8 record, which had landed them the 7th seed. But Elizabeth was fresh off a 1-0 upset over Kent Place in overtime earlier in the week, and looking to continue its own run within the UCT.
The Pioneers opened the scoring as Erin Fay fired a volley into the left side of the goal midway through the first half. Several other chances to expand the lead were denied as the Pioneers completely kept Elizabeth pinned in their own end. Captains Jenna Madden and Kelly Carroll, who have provided much of the leadership load this year, were relentless in controlling the middle of the field. Madden, a 3 year starter on defense for Murphy, continued her physical and stellar play anchoring the Pioneer back line. Sophomore goalkeeper Katie Vigilante came up with a huge diving save on a breakaway chance off the foot of Tamoya Brown in the waning minutes of the first half to keep New Providence on top.
Elizabeth found some energy following the break and, from a quick counter attack, Brown was able to find the far corner to equalize just 12 minutes into the second half. Then off a scramble in front of the Pioneer goal from a free kick, Brown was able to put home her second of the day to give Elizabeth a 2-1 advantage.
New Providence regrouped and looked for answers, but this seemed to be a recurring trend. Several times this season, the Lady Pioneers had taken one goal leads into halftime only to surrender the lead early in the second half and concede an eventual game winner moments later that they had difficulty recovering from. But Saturday would be different as Murphy looked to shake up his attack. From a set piece, Madden served a ball into the penalty area, which Casey Trezza chipped toward freshman substitute Lexi Everton, who corralled the pass and blasted a shot from close range into the left side of the net with 20 minutes remaining to level the match at 2-2. It was Everton’s first varsity goal and couldn’t have come at a better time for New Providence.
With overtime looming, the Lady Pioneers continued to mount the attack on the Elizabeth goal. The offensive pressure would pay off with about 5 minutes left in regulation as Lisa Caprara nodded on a pass, off an Anna Crisafi corner kick, which found Fay just outside the six yard box. Fay leaped to put a glancing header just beyond the outstretched arms of Elizabeth goalkeeper Jeanine Franco to put New Providence in the lead to stay as the home crowd erupted in celebration.
The backline of Jocelyn Andreae, Ashley Evangelos and Paige Kovacs cleared away the last gasps from Elizabeth and New Providence prevailed 3-2 to earn a quarterfinal match up with second seeded Westfield Blue Devils on Saturday.
Westfield has beaten New Providence twice this season already; however, Murphy believes his team will be ready for the rematch.
“While the results of the first two games were not what we had hoped, we did take some positives from each game. We understand it will take a great team effort to beat Westfield, but it is a challenge we are ready for.”